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V for Vendetta, Fahrenheit 451, and five other books that reflect Trump’s America

Peter Morgan

February 2, 2017

Is Nineteen Eighty-Four too obvious? Readers suggest books with the rise of a US oligarchy, alternative facts and a president who wont live in the White House

George Orwells Nineteen Eighty-Four has seen a surge in popularity since the election of Donald Trump, but other dystopian works of fiction are available. Following on from Alex Herns suggestions on Thursday, our readers offered the novels they think best capture the spirit of the times.

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore

 

To be sure, the management is very bad. In fact, let us not mince words the management is terrible! Weve had a string of embezzlers, frauds, liars and lunatics making a string of catastrophic decisions. This is plain fact.

But who elected them? It was you! You who appointed these people! You who gave them the power to make your decisions for you!

Clearly, we have elected the bad management that sits in office today, making catastrophic decisions. V for Vendetta depicts a state run by a dictator who rose to power after starting as an elected official, surrounding himself with people who think like him and are all too willing to carry out his extreme agenda.

Laurel Jones, Portland, Oregon

The Iron Heel by Jack London

The
The Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft factory in Untertuerkheim, near Stuttgart, in 1904. Photograph: AP
. The novel accurately predicts the rise of the oligarchy in the US and the methods employed to widen the gap between the rich and the poor. From the bankrupting of small business owners and the subsequent wiping out of the middle classes, to favoured unions selling out their peers, Jack London predicted it all. The 1% existed then, and the 1% still exists now.

As a bonus, the novels primary protagonist is an educated woman by the name of Avis Everhard, which in 1908 was a pretty big deal, given that women did not even have the vote.

Suzi Smith, Edinburgh

If This Goes On … by Robert A Heinlein

 

When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know, the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked.

A dystopian future, where psychological techniques are used to evaluate and manipulate the population. A religious dictator controls the US, and is eventually overthrown by the military. But Heinleins psychodynamics manipulating populations by systems of mathematics that make use of semantic indices for words quantification of the emotional impact of one word-choice over another in a given context looks much like the work done by Cambridge Analytica to assist Trump and Farage. The respected Stanford academic Michal Kosinski seems to have made psychodynamics a reality, and now Steve Bannon and Breitbart are using his ideas to rebuild fascism.

David Holmes, Newark

The Limits of the World by Andrew Raymond Drennan

North
A template for Trumps America? North Korean soldiers gather at Munsu Hill to lay flowers in front of statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. Photograph: Wong Maye-E/AP
.

 

Painting slogans on walls is hard to keep quiet. Too many people see it. They tell their neighbours who tell other people at the market. Rumour becomes fact very quickly.

And what about our facts?

Han tried to smile, but felt it turning into a smirk, the kind he had seen senior officers make over the years. Our facts are better, comrade secretary. He let the smirk drift from his face: he was surprised how easy it was to sound like them.

This is a short conversation about some anti-establishment graffiti that appears in Pyongyang. It entirely resonates with the recent alternative facts debacle. The book, set in Pyongyang, consistently throws up draconian procedures of government and rules that are cropping up in Trumps rhetoric. There are terrifying similarities between the DPRK and what could be in store for the US over the next four years.

Joseph Martin-Kelly, 32, London

The Penultimate Truth by Philip K Dick

Its the third world war and millions live underground, producing robots for the conflict raging on the surface. TV is piped down to them, describing how the war is progressing.

But in reality the war is long over, and the upper society are living comfortable lives in mansions on massive estates maintained by the robots manufactured below the surface. Every now and again, they have robot skirmishes to determine who gets the nicest area to live. To maintain this, they create fake media and lies, even rewriting the history of WWII.

The fake news and lies are reminiscent of the Trumps presidency alternative facts, but the real uncomfortable similarity is that, unlike in Nineteen Eight-Four or Brave New World, the elite arent violent, moralistic or even overtly nasty; they just do all this to maintain the status quo of their nice lifestyles. I dont think Trump has much purpose other than to advance his celebrity status and lifestyle.

Jamie Wilson, 30, Cardiff

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Julie
Julie Christie in the 1966 film of Fahrenheit 451. Photograph: Everett Collection / Rex Feature

 

I plunk the children in school nine days out of ten. I put up with them when they come home three days a month; its not bad at all. You heave them into the parlor and turn the switch. Its like washing clothes: stuff laundry in and slam the lid … Theyd just as soon kick as kiss me. Thank God, I can kick back!

I think Ray Bradburys prediction of the modern obsession with TV was spookily accurate. Now we have the internet to allow TV to be watched on so many different platforms, we can watch it pretty much anywhere, and its potential for control of the masses is limitless. Its no surprise a president has been inaugurated who practically boasts that he has never read a book. Lets see if Trump starts suggesting book burnings …

David Murphy, Bath

It Cant Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

.

Published in 1935 as a response to those who regarded Nazism as something that could never take place in the Land of the Free, the book describes how a populist politician, Buzz Windrip, becomes president through riding a wave of anti-immigrant, anti-intellectual, traditionalist sentiment.

Comparisons to Trump are obvious, but it is remarkable how prescient the novel is. Windrip promises to empower working-class white voters, and to revitalise the manufacturing industry. His speeches consist of frequently simple statements, often repeated, but lacking in any lasting tangible sentiment. His lackeys deny the official numbers that attend Windrips events, instead providing their own figures.

The new president declines to live in the White House, opting instead for an apartment where he spends his hours in front of the TV.

Barney Caswell, Manchester

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